Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Most Influential Games

I've played many, many games since I began playing games when I was around 3 years old. As we grow and play more games, our vision and expectations of games get shaped and molded by the games that influence us the most. The games that have influenced me the most are:

- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Epic. The word "epic" gets thrown around a lot today, by me included, but the first game to define this word for me was a Link to the Past. The game world was enormous, and so much was open to player right from the start. Furthermore, the game provides the player with a whole other world halfway through. A Link to the Past really opened my eyes to how vast a game world could be, and just what a true adventure game was.

- Super Mario 64: Freedom. Not only did Super Mario 64 bring the world of 3D to gaming, but it executed it perfectly. Mario 64 showed the world just how to interact and play in a true 3D world through superb platforming and level design. Super Mario 64 not only showed the industry how to execute 3D gaming, but created a whole new path for games to travel down, and showed just what games were capable of.

- SoulCalibur: Quality. SoulCalibur is the epitome of quality in videogames, even to this day. Everything about SoulCalibur was perfectly realized. The graphics, the art direction, the music, the characters, and, of course, the gameplay. What SoulCalibur did was show me how intricate a videogame could be while still being very focused. I never thought that such quality could come from a fighting game, but the effect of SoulCalibur showed me that there is no better genre suited for such quality. The graphics presented animation that was super smooth, the music was epic and heart-pounding thus making each battle feel like a true battle, the art direction created fantastic set pieces for these battles and fantastic characters to take place in those battles, and the gameplay brought everything into the hands of the player. To me, the SoulCalibur series remains the standard of quality in games today, and the only fighting game that transcends it's genre and stands alongside the greatest videogames ever made.

- Chrono Trigger: RPG. The first game I played that felt like it transcended past being just a game and became an experience. The graphics were fantastic, backed up by a superb art direction by Akira Toriyama; the characters were fantastic, and were emphasized by the battle system itslef, whcih utilized team attacks. Furthermore, the story was fantastic without being convuluted like so many modern-day RPGs. But, what made the game feel so personal and enjoyable to me was Mitsuda's incredible soundtrack, which was so diverse and charming that it became a legend. To me, Chrono Trigger executed the JRPG formula better than any other JRPG, even to this day.

- Super Metroid: Atmosphere. This game showed how perfectly realized a videogame's world could feel. Super Metroid's world felt alive and thriving, and the player explored this alien world. The result was a game that was more engaging than any other game I've ever played before. I would play Super Metroid non-stop because I wanted to just keep exploring and see what was behind each door. Furthermore, the fantastic soundtrack helped bring the player into the world, so much so that I would constantly forget the music was playing, rather, it felt like the music was part of the world itself. Making a fully realized game world is difficult, but Sakamoto and R&D1 pulled it off with flying colors.

- Odin Sphere: Beauty. One annoyance I always had with videogames is how so much was lost from the artworks from the game's designers to the actual game's graphics. Vanillaware stopped all of that by providing a game so beautiful and well-crafted, that it could only be called a work of art. One of my biggest disappointments with the game industry was the decline of 2D gaming. Vanillaware is keeping that alive, by not only keeping 2D gaming alive, but bringing it to a whole new level of quality not dreamed possible in the past. Odin Sphere showed me just how beautiful games can be, and that the videogame medium is not so different from that of manga or anime.

- Bayonetta: Climax Action. Finally! Finally, a truly satisfying 3D action was made. Bayonetta changed my way of thinking for videogames by showing me just how satisfying a single videogame experience can be. Furthermore, Bayonetta showed me that the direction videogames are going is completely unneccessary, for Bayonetta doesn't use motion controls or a camera, or any type of gimmick. It's all controlled with a controller that's no more complicated than a PSX controller. Bayonetta showed that through innovation and creativity, a truly satisfying experience can be made through gameplay alone. Climax Action is real, and all it took to create was to not be afraid to take things to the next level. "Taking things to the next level", that is what every game developer needs to do now, so that this new generation can truly kick off.

However, to have been unsatisfied with every action game until Bayonetta means that a precedent had to be set beforehand. And this is true. Before Bayonetta, before Devil May Cry, before them all, there was an arcade, and in that arcade was .......

Metal Slug: ACTION!!! No game personifies action the way the Metal Slug series does. Metal Slug showed me everything that the action genre was capable of. The pacing was brilliant with action happening non-stop from screen to screen, yet it was never boring, as it was never repeptitive. The level design was incredible, keeping the player engaged constantly throughout the incredible action experience. Nearly a dozen different weapons, mechs and tanks to go into, and huge bosses; and all of going by at a brisk pace. The gameplay was also very simple, thus allowing SNK to rack-up the difficulty, which Metal Slug is known for; it also allowed the game to be just so fun. All of that combined with a pounding and catchy soundtrack just make each Metal Slug enjoyable from start to finish; especially Metal Slug 3, the magnum opus of the series. Metal Slug is the game that made me fall in love with the action genre, and it's the game that became the golden standard of action for me.

Of course I've played many other games that were influential, such as Sonic, Yoshi's Island, and Street Fighter II, but the ones above are teh ones that really shpwed my views of gaming as a whole. If I were to say what game have influenced me the MOST, that would go to Metal Slug, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, SoulCalibur, and Bayonetta. These are the games that made me the gamer I am today.

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